For the fourth time in 19 years, Phoenix voters have affirmed their support for a light rail system that reflects our vision of a healthy, modern desert city. In a win for climate, birds, and people, nearly 2/3 of voters support continued use of city funds to develop, expand, and maintain the light rail system. On election night, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego tweeted, “Light rail expansion is not stopping— not today, not tomorrow, not ever. We have and will continue to protect our rail because this is not about one route, this is about equity for our entire community.”
The results of this vote are expected to reverberate across the country, with the New York Times picking up the story as a reflection of how Phoenix “wrestled with poor air quality, intermittent droughts, and heavy reliance on automobiles” as well as “decades of dizzying growth.” At Audubon, we know that the light rail is good for reducing carbon emissions associated with car travel and sprawling development. We also know that, in turn, it is good for birds and good for people.
Thank you to the Phoenix voters who voted once again to support the light rail. We’ll keep you updated on the exciting progress of the light rail construction right outside our nature center doors—expected to begin later this year.
Original post Aug. 19, 2019:
Save the Light Rail, Vote “NO” on Prop. 105: Aug. 27, 2019
Why would Audubon care about light rail? In fact, why would anyone care if they are not located immediately along the rail corridor? This month’s light rail vote is a watershed moment for climate change mitigation, for sensible infrastructure in a modern desert city—and for birds.
Don’t sit this one out – VOTE NO ON PROP 105 before or on August 27! For information on the election, visit Phoenix’s election website.
Audubon’s beautiful nature center sits on the south bank of the 600-acre restored Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area. It also sits immediately along the planned South Central Light Rail Corridor. As executive director of our state office, I have participated in community planning efforts associated with the light rail expansion for many years. I’m even a member of a gentrification and displacement prevention work group—because this issue of social and environmental justice is important for our neighbors and community, and for Audubon and birds, too.
We know that construction may temporarily impact our revenue and program participation, including important rental income, field trip participation, and more. We also know this light rail is still a GREAT opportunity for our community.
Transportation is the lifeblood of any city and Phoenix is no exception. With just over 1.6 million residents, Phoenix is the 5th most populous city in the country. Until the mid-2000s, the city had a low-tech public transportation system, including buses and ride-share programs, but no light rail program. As the population has grown, congestion and traffic have both worsened. Similarly, climate change and income inequality have both intensified, sparking a public desire for an affordable, low-emission, public transportation option.
In order to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, we need to drastically reduce the carbon emissions that have been fueling it. Combating climate change is important for the overall health of humans and the environment– and climate change is also the number one threat facing birds. Climate change threatens to reduce bird habitats, shift ranges, and even cause the extinction of some species.
Light rail systems produce approximately 60 percent less carbon pollution per passenger mile than private vehicles. It could also decrease the number of “low air quality” days in the valley. This makes light rail a less pollution-intensive option that allows people across the city to travel more cost-effectively, and to be more connected to neighborhoods, jobs, shopping areas, and to the rest of the city. In addition, light rail connects us to nature centers and green spaces like the Rio Salado.
In vote after vote, Phoenix residents have supported development of a modern light rail system. We have seen jobs created, non-sprawling urban development generated, and the carbon emissions of 45,000 daily riders reduced.
Despite its multiple benefits to the city and its citizens, the light rail program in Phoenix is now under threat. Prop 105, a citizen initiative, would eliminate City of Phoenix funding for any light rail expansion—anywhere in the city. It would also eliminate our ability to access billions of dollars in federal matching funds. This means people across Phoenix will have fewer transportation options, communities will be less connected, workers will have a harder time getting to work, more traffic, and a smoggier valley.
Phoenix residents can once again support light rail by voting “NO” on Prop. 105. By voting “NO”, the citizens of Phoenix can declare once and for all that we support light rail and the economic and environmental benefits that come with a modern public transportation system.
On August 27, join us in supporting our communities and birds by voting “NO” on Prop. 105 to protect light rail in Phoenix. It’s bad for people, and bad for birds.
For early voters or voters who want to vote at a voting center prior to August 27, visit: https://www.phoenix.gov/cityclerk/services/election-information/august-2019-special-election